Noting the lack of diversity in the presidential primary debates, the AAPI Victory Fund will host its own presidential forum and national community action summit on Sept. 8 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in Costa Mesa, Calif., featuring Asian American moderators.
There has never been an Asian American or Pacific Islander presidential primary debate moderator, noted the Victory Fund in a June 11 press statement, shortly after NBC announced the five moderators for the first debates, which are scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, "Today” show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow, and “Noticias Telemundo” and “NBC Nightly News Saturday” anchor José Díaz-Balart were announced as moderators NBC.
Earlier this year, the Victory Fund had announced the Democratic Presidential Forum and reported that it had invited all of the candidates to speak at the event.
A subsequent release sent June 11 did not note which of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates would appear at the event.
"With the most diverse group of candidates ever running for the presidency, including three AAPI presidential candidates, community leaders across the country see a real need to represent a powerful and growing force of voters," said Shekar Narasimhan, chair of the AAPI Victory Fund, in a press statement.
"It's time to break the bamboo ceiling on who asks the questions and represents today's voters," said the Indian American. "We're seeing dramatic year-to-year increases in Asian American voter turnout coast-to-coast. Local community leaders are activating the full power of their networks and combining their national strength to restore our democracy."
The AAPI Victory Fund has not endorsed any of the candidates. Narasimhan told India-West in January that the Victory Fund does not make endorsements simply because a candidate is Asian American.
"Moderators wield a lot of power in which questions are asked and also visibility for their respective communities, and it is important for Democratic voters to feel represented," said Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Fund, in a press statement.
"Time after time again, the phrases 'AAPIs are the fastest growing minority' and 'AAPIs are the swing vote with a high number of independent voters' have been repeated by both the DNC and candidates alike, yet there hasn't been a true push by campaigns to reach out to AAPI voters and voter registration."
The Victory Fund cited an analysis of online data from the American Presidency Project, which examined 132 primary debates in presidential races from 1996 through 2016. In nearly three-quarters of debates, the moderators were all white.
In 44 percent of debates, there were no female moderators. Only 1 in 5 debates had at least one black moderator, and 11 percent had at least one Latino one, according to the analysis.
As the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., the AAPI electorate will have an even more formidable effect in the 2020 elections than it has in the past, noted the Victory Fund.
Roughly one in four Congressional Districts have more than five percent AAPI voters, and AAPIs have become the swing vote in multiple districts and states. Results from the 2018 mid-term elections show that AAPIs contributed significantly to the Democratic margins of victory.